The aftermath of the October 7th Hamas attacks continue to reverberate internationally. While many countries condemned the attacks by Hamas, there is an increasing divergence between Western European and North American countries on the one hand and many Global South countries, particularly as Israel’s declared intentions and actions are increasingly constituting war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The reverberations of these discordant stances on the global stage have at times intensified into diplomatic flashpoints. Currently, a significant incident is unfolding between Colombia and Israel. Gustavo Petro, Colombia's President, has reacted vehemently to Israel's recent actions in Gaza. Petro has consistently emphasized the imperative for Israel and Palestine to engage in negotiations with the aim of attaining a two-state solution. In doing so, he has drawn historical parallels between the present circumstances in Gaza and past instances of grave injustices. This stance reflects his endeavor to establish himself as a prominent figure within the left-wing political sphere on the continent. He went significantly further on October 15th, to compare the Israelis' total blockade of Gaza to the practices of Nazism, a statement that brought an immediate and furious response from Israel, including the suspension of exports of “security material”, i.e. weapons and equipment to Colombia’s military. During a public protest on his social media account on platform X (formerly Twitter), Petro openly expressed his willingness to sever ties with Israel if deemed necessary, emphasizing the Colombian government's stance against genocide and significantly raising his rhetoric.
Gustavo Petro, for example, wrote the following:
"If we need to suspend foreign relations with Israel, we will. We do not support genocide.
The president of Colombia is not to be insulted.
I call upon Latin America for genuine solidarity with Colombia. And if it is not capable, it will be the course of history that has the last say, as in the great Chaco War.
Neither Yair Klein nor Raifal Eithan can determine the history of peace in Colombia. They unleashed massacres and genocide in Colombia.
From the people of Israel, I demand assistance in the peace of Colombia and in the peace of Palestine and the world.
Colombia, as taught by Bolívar and Nariño, is an independent, sovereign, and just nation.
One day, the army and the government of Israel will apologize for what their men did on our land, causing genocide. I will embrace them, and we will cry for the atrocities of Auschwitz and Gaza and for the Colombian Auschwitz.
Hitler will be defeated for the good of humanity, its democracy, peace, and the freedom of the world.
Petro's choice of words is an outlier, but his stance broadly aligns with a longstanding Latin American tradition of demonstrating support for the Palestinian cause. Since 1974, the United Nations General Assembly has acknowledged the Palestine Liberation Organization as the official representation of the Palestinian people, garnering substantial backing from several nations in Latin America. The Palestinian diaspora and Arab communities, particularly in Brazil, Chile and Colombia, have played a significant role in advancing the Palestinian cause in Latin America. Their efforts have had a notable impact on foreign policy and have contributed to the strengthening of historical and cultural connections between Palestine and Latin America. The examination of the Palestinian diaspora in Latin America, particularly in Colombia and Brazil, sheds light on the interconnectedness between their experiences and several historical wars and conflicts. Notably, these include the Six-Day War in 1967, the Intifada in 1987, and the tragic atrocities that occurred in the towns of Sabra and Chatila throughout the 1980s. The historical connection between Latin American nations and Palestine can be traced back to the year 1975, when authorization was granted for the appointment of a representative from the Palestine Liberation Organization in the capital city of Brasília.
The acknowledgment of the Palestinian State by a majority of Latin American nations showcases a profound sense of historical unity in support of the Palestinian cause, surpassing political and ideological variances among countries within the region. The case of Colombia's reaction to Israel's military actions in the Gaza Strip, under the leadership of Gustavo Petro, serves as a current manifestation of the enduring Latin American engagement and support for Palestine. This occurrence aligns with a larger narrative in the region centered on the pursuit of justice and the peaceful resolution of conflicts within the international arena. The immediate impact of this escalation on Israeli actions is difficult to predict, and unlikely to significantly alter the trajectory of the conflict. However the number of countries, legal groups and international organizations raising significant criticisms so soon after the October 7th attacks may raise the pressure on Israel’s government. In the long run, the divergence is another instance of a trend exacerbated by the Russia-Ukraine war among other conflicts.